To extend new educational opportunities to cities seeking to learn about best practices in the field of open data and data-driven governance, the National League of Cities announced on Thursday it is offering a new workshop series.
Led by the city advocacy group and Results for America, a leading member of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative, the workshops will be held at the groups’ events, such as NLC’s annual meetings and a “City Summit” meeting led by NLC’s University initiative to be held in November.
What Works Cities’ raison d’être has been to promote the use of data in cities to improve how governments operate and ultimately the quality of life for the people they govern. The initiative has done that primarily through city partnerships, of which there are 100 , but to reach a wider group, WWC created a certification program last year to allow non-partner cities to receive both validation and feedback on their data work. The first nine cities became certified in January.
And now these workshops, said Simone Brody, What Works Cities’ executive director, will further extend the resources and knowledge of the government data community to drive more calculated data-driven decision making by city governments.
“We’re trying to think about how to work with as many cities as possible and giving exposure to the value of this work,” Brody said.
The workshops will share with participants best practices related to the use of data, impart the value of becoming certified through WWC, and explain to senior leadership the value of communicating internally and with external stakeholders to advance data work in a city.
Brody said the first year of the certification program has exceeded her expectations in that it’s spurred many cities to action, including those that became certified and needed help understand how to proceed, she said. The workshops are expected to include much of the same kinds of resources and information.
“When you’re the first person in a race, it’s hard to know what you’re striving for,” Brody said.
Likewise, the cities that did not initially receive certification have prompted many mayors to mandate their staffs to work to become certified in the next round. The certification process for the 2019 cohort begins this fall.
“It’s evidence of the power of competition among successful, ambitious city leaders,” Brody said.
City data programs have advanced in sophistication in recent years. Brody said the programs launched today are much more goal-oriented than the open data initiatives of, say, five years ago that had a broad transparency goal, but little else. Today, strategy and performance management are much more common when the topic of data comes up inside city hall.
One area where Brody said cities have more work to do is the use of data to benchmark progress and then stop programs and initiatives when they’re shown not to be effective. A decade of research shows that the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, for example, that found its way into 75 percent of American schools after being introduced in 1983 was not effective at deterring drug and alcohol use by minors. When data shows that a program like that doesn’t work, Brody said, she would like to see more cities act on it.